While the stay-at-home orders for most states are beginning to expire, and staged reopening of places of business are giving us a small respite from being homebound, nearly all schools across the United States remain closed for the remainder of the school year. That, coupled with the beginning of summer break, challenges parents with having to manage anxious children at home. As children’s music teachers and parents alike have known forever, music sooths and relaxes stressed out kids. We have touched in past posts about how many children’s music studio owners are providing virtual music classes online, these classes and additional activities associated with them can only take up some many hours in a day or week. Music professionals and children’s teachers will agree that just about any activity that exposes children to music is a good thing. Here are a few fun ideas for families to do at home that will expand children’s musical exposure:
- Make a guitar out of a cereal box – Cereal is a staple food for many households with children. Whether its Lucky Charms, Rice Crispies, or Captain Crunch, many lids love to eat it all day long. Those empty boxes can be used for a fun arts and crafts activity that also teaches about music. Building a simple guitar out of a cereal box have many benefits, from tactile activity to learning to repurpose materials. No matter how good it ends up sounding, guitars can teach children about rhythm and scales.
- Musical spoon activities – Many of us imagine an old man from Appalachia on his front porch slapping a pair of spoons between his knee and hand, but the playing of spoons has actually been around since before written history. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all played spoons and a variation of them called rattle bones or rhythm bones. While this form of concussion idiophone can be hard to master, all it takes is an old spoon and other kitchen objects to explore a variety of musical sounds. Rubbing the spoon against an old can, kitchen grater, hitting a pot, etc, provides many different sounds. Children will have fun composing arrangements of the various sounds, and possibly even writing lyrics. Just keep in mind that this is not an activity that should be encouraged while you are on a conference call working from home!
- Draw what you hear – This activity combines several forms of
art with creativity. Start with a blank sheet of paper and pencils, markers, or
crayons. Select a piece of music, whether it’s a Classical instrumental or a Rock
song with lyrics, ask your child to draw what they are hearing. If they are
having trouble, give them some ideas or demonstrate. For example, if the music
is a slow Blues song, they may use long loping lines in a darker, melancholy
color. For a faster, livelier genre such as Calypso, they may choose to draw
shorter, sharper angles in brighter colors. Some children may decide to draw
what it literally being sung about in the lyrics. There is no right or wrong
way for them to draw what they think or feel when listening to the music.
- Fortune Teller or “Chatter Box” Game – If you are of a certain age, you may remember the folding paper game that allows you to make selections while manipulating the origami. Children will love folding and decorating the paper, and the resulting activity can be applied to a limitless amount of musical games. Write different genres of music inside the flaps, and play examples as each of them are selected. Another idea is to put common words on each flap and write a song together that includes all of the words selected after a number of rounds. Ask older children to think of their own musical game that utilizes the “chatter box.”
- Freeze dance – A variation of musical chairs, this one is fun and simple while burning off some energy at the same time. Play a song on an audio player and ask everyone begin to dance however they feel. When they least expect it, hit pause or yell freeze and see what funny positions everyone winds up in. Like musical chairs, you can eliminate anyone who is still moving when the music freezes, and/or see how long each can hold their positions. Let members of the family take turns in selecting the music and hitting the pause button. Add some toys, children’s instruments, or ordinary household items as props to add even more variety.
studio owners and teachers will tell parents that in addition to a more formal
music education, just about any other exposure to music or musical
activities will expand musical growth. At a time when parents are looking for
fun activities for children at home, these simple suggestions can educate,
entertain, and exercise at the very same time.
As the school year winds down and families begin to make their summer plans, regular weekly schedules from the school year are sometimes overlooked or forgotten. This experience can be especially true for music teachers, as lessons are often considered part of school curriculum. Brain drain or “the summer slide” is often credited with a fall in cognitive activities for students over the summer.
With the potential for the attendance of regular weekly lessons or classes to fall in the Summer, studio owners should be proactive to not only maintain a steady income over those months, but also look at it as an opportunity to increase income. So, how do teachers retain music students, and even add to their class rolls during the summer?
Here are a few ideas that can help throughout the Summer
Billing by the Semester or Year – Billing parents monthly, or by the class,
is typical for music teachers and programs. But the approach often creates
mental gaps in between those programs, providing parents and students an
opportunity to “take a break” and miss some time, especially over the Summer.
While it takes a bit more planning, semester or even full year billing can not
only create a more stable cash flow for music teachers and studios, it can also
provide a structured “pathway” for parents and students to continue lessons.
- Gain New Students with Summer Advertising and Promotions – While Summer vacations and competing camps may cause a dip in current student music studio attendance, it is actually a time when many parents are looking to sign their students up. Consider an investment in advertising during the Spring and Summer using Summer themed programs. This does not have to be expensive, either! An ad in a newsletter at your local pool, Word of Mouth (WOM) using referral cards with current students, or offering a Summer Enrollment Special to get parents over the finish line. Summer themes stand out in advertising!
- Offer an Alternative to Screen Usage – According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, children between the ages of two and five spend an average of 2.2 hours on screens every day. That number is undoubtedly higher during summer months, as parents again struggle with how to keep their children engaged in other activities while they are at work. Work out messaging to address this hot topic for parents. Emphasize that music lessons provide an extremely beneficial alternative to screens in all of your marketing and dialogue with parents, especially during the Summer.
- Consider Free Group Classes with Organizations to Gain More Students – In addition to camps and music studios, many other organizations offer children’s programs during the summer. Public Libraries offer Summer programs and many churches offer Vacation Bible School or similar programs. While many teachers resist giving away any instruction for free, these programs are looking for daily activities to fill their days, and music instruction is a very popular subject. Partnering with these organizations offers exposure to a large group of potential new students once the free program is over. Approach them with a structured plan that takes some of the planning burden off of them. Keep in mind that having a good option for both secular and sacred music programs allows more flexibility with these partnerships.
While the Summer months may be a time when current music student enrollment tends to fall due to family vacations and camps, music studio teachers should also consider it an opportunity to gain new students and income through offering specialized curricula, themed programs, and alternatives to screen usage.
Summertime means hot, sunny days and chillin’ by pool, but for some Musikgarten studios it can also mean a not so cool dip in enrollment and attendance. Here are 11 HOT ways to keep your studio humming all summer long…
- Talk to parents about their summer plans so you can better anticipate your summer enrollment and plan accordingly. Ask parents if/when they’ll attend during the summer, why or why not, and when they’re away on vacation. You can create a simple, free survey using Google Forms or SurveyMonkey, and send it to parents via email.
- Start sending emails or notes home now to remind parents that Musikgarten is just as fun in the sun! Let them know now if you’re planning an alternate summer schedule so they don’t miss a beat.
- Talk to parents about summer learning loss and how participating in Musikgarten provides an enriching learning experience. You already know music instruction boosts academic performance; this article recommends enriching, less-structured activities as one way to help keep kids’ minds sharp all summer. Consider this from the National Summer Learning Association: “When school closes for the summer, what do kids face? For some, it’s a world of interesting vacations, music lessons, and library trips. For others without these enriching summertime opportunities, the break can lead to serious academic consequences—and the disparity can be dramatic.”
- Consider adding a few extra daytime classes for parents, sitters, and summer camps looking for ways to keep little ones busy. They’ll thank you!
- Reach out ASAP to nearby camps and churches, YMCAs, and day care centers offering summer programs. Camp directors are always looking for local, affordable activities; they may bring you new students by the busload! If space is an issue at your studio, take your Musikgarten to the camp and be sure to supply take-home information.
- Offer summer specials and limited-time promotions. Consider an exclusive summertime rate for current families to encourage them to stick with your studio all season.
- Consider adding a flexible, drop-in class for parents and sitters battling boredom and rainy day blues – your studio can be a real sanity saver!
- Spring and summer means lots of family-friendly outdoor events and festivals popping up in every town. Check with your local paper, convention and visitors bureau, or city website for a calendar of upcoming events. Then contact the organizers about hosting free, interactive music activities for kids; be sure to bring flyers or cards for parents!
- If you have the space and resources, consider offering a half- or whole-day Musikgarten camp. Musikgarten curriculum can be one part of the daily schedule; you can fill the rest of the time with music-themed arts n’ crafts, games, activities, and even movies. Here’s a list of age-appropriate musicals and musical movies.
- Don’t stop marketing your Musikgarten! It can be temping to take a break, but keep up your marketing and social media efforts: a new summer student may turn into a year-round enrollee! Need new marketing ideas? Click here!
11. Go outside! Plan and promote a few classes “al fresco” – have parents meet you at a local park or under a shady tree near your studio (of course, get permission if it’s not your property.) Ask families to bring picnic blankets or beach towels, and water bottles. Encourage children to listen to the music of nature, like birds singing and leaves blowing in the breeze. You can even have an impromptu summer parade!
Are you ready for summer? We are! Tell us how you keep your Musikgarten growing all summer; email us here.